Excerpts from

  Do It To A Finish
Orison Swett Marden

Order in Adobe PDF eBook or printed form for $5.95 (+ printing charge)

or click here to order from Amazon.com for $16.95

Book Description
An excellent guide to developing tenacity and persistence in everything that you do...but especially in the workplace. Great tips and suggestions on how to follow through what you start! Contents: Crime of Carelessness; Relation of Work to Character; Blinders That Cost a Million Dollars a Day; Difference Between Artist and Artisan; Second Class Men; Thoroughness the Handmaid of Genius; That Fatal Almost; What Every Employer is Looking For; Where Only the Best is Good Enough.



MANY years ago a relief life-boat at New London sprung a leak, and while being repaired a hammer was found in the bottom that had been left there by the builders thirteen years before.

From the constant motion of the boat the hammer had worn through the planking, clear down to the plating.

In another instance, it was discovered that a young girl had served twenty years for a twenty month sentence, in an Alabama prison, because of the mistake made by a court clerk who wrote "years" instead of "months" in the formal record of the prisoner's sentence.

The history of the human race is full of the most horrible  tragedies caused by carelessness and the inexcusable blunders of those who never formed the habit of accuracy, of thoroughness, of doing things to a complete finish.

Multitudes of people are hobbling around on one leg, have lost an eye or an arm, or are otherwise maimed, because dishonest workmen wrought deception into the products they manufactured; they cheated their employer and slighted their work, covered up defects and weaknesses in the product with paint and varnish.

How many innocent people have lost their lives because of dishonest work, carelessness and criminal blundering in railroad construction, for example? Think of the tragedies caused by lies packed in car-wheels, locomotives, steam-boat boilers, and engines; lies in defective rails, ties, or switches; lies in dishonest labor put into manufactured material by workmen who said it was good enough for the meager wages they got! Simply because people were not conscientious in their work there were flaws in the steel, which caused the rail or pillar to snap, the locomotive or other machinery to break. The steel shaft once broke on a ship sailing in the middle of the ocean, and the lives of a thousand passengers were jeopardized because of some-body’s carelessness.

How many serious accidents have occurred because of a lack of care in the casting of steel girders and all sorts of iron building material! Even before they were completed, buildings have fallen and buried the workmen under their ruins, because somebody was dishonest in his workmanship —employer or employee—and his dishonesty left only lies and deceptions, into the material of the building.

A big mill in a manufacturing city in Massachusetts fell one day while in full operation. The ruins accidentally took fire, and sadly, one hundred and twenty-five lives were sacrificed. The disaster was the result of the grossest carelessness of the superintendent, or masterbuilder.

Iron columns were put in that were defective in casting. They were thin as paper on one side, and as thick as a plank on the other, when they should have been measured equally and true to a hair-line fraction all around. When the pressure came upon them, they were quickly broken, and botched work claimed a holocaust of human lives.

Some time ago the world was startled by the collapse of a great bridge in Canada, which caused the loss of many precious lives and millions of dollars in property. The newspaper reports of the disaster stated, "twenty thousand tons of steel, which had in the course of several years been laboriously worked into the south arm of a great bridge over the St. Lawrence River at Quebec, suddenly crumpled up like cardboard and fell into the river, carrying with it nearly a hundred human beings. Of these over seventy were crushed to death or drowned. Besides this terrible loss of life the disaster must have cost the builders of the bridge millions of dollars—all wiped out of existence in only a few seconds.

Before the investigating committee appointed by the Canadian government to inquire into the matter, Mr. Theodore Cooper, the consulting engineer of the bridge, an expert in his profession, gave the following testimony:

"I believe if prompt action had been taken to protect chord nine west (the section of the bridge under suspicion) from further deflection, which could have been done by the employment of three hours' work and one hundred dollars' worth of timber and bolts, the defects and deficiencies which we now recognize in the compression chords and members could, at a later date, have been corrected, and the bridge could have been made perfectly safe and sufficient for its intended purpose."

Here was a double crime; carelessness or negligence on the part of the constructing engineers or some of those employed in building the bridge in the first place, which made the collapse at all possible; in the second place, criminal carelessness on the part of those responsible for the condition of the bridge, who might have prevented the fatal accident by the exercise of a little ordinary care and intelligence, the expenditure of a few hours' work and a hundred dollars' worth of material!

The majority of railroad wrecks, of disasters on land and sea, which cause so much misery and cost so many lives are the direct result of carelessness, thoughtlessness, or half-done botched and blundering work. They are the evil fruit of the low ideals of slovenly, careless, indifferent workers; selfish, self-centered people who expect every-thing of others, but never from themselves.

Everywhere over this broad earth we see the tragic results of botched work. Wooden legs, armless sleeves, numberless graves, fatherless and motherless homes every-where speak of somebody's carelessness, somebody's blunders, somebody's habit of inaccuracy. 

The worst crimes are not punishable by law. Carelessness, a lack of thoroughness, are crimes against self, against humanity, that often do more harm than the crimes that make the perpetrator an outcast from society. Where a tiny flaw or the slightest defect may cost a precious life, carelessness is as much a crime as deliberate criminality.

If everybody put his conscience into his work, did it to a complete finish, it would not only reduce the loss of human life, the mangling and maiming of men and women, to a fraction of what it is at present, but it would also give us a higher quality of manhood and womanhood. It takes honest work to make an honest character. The habit of doing poor,

slovenly work will, after a while, make the worker dis-honest in other things.

The man who habitually slights his work slights his own character. Botched work makes way for a botched life. Our work is a part of us. Every half-done job you let go through

your hands diminishes your competence, your efficiency, your ability to do good work. It is an offense against your self-respect, an insult to your highest ideal. Every inferior piece of work you do is an enemy which pulls you down, keeps you from getting on in life.



NOTHING kills ambition or lowers the life standard quicker than familiarity with inferiority—that which is cheap, the "cheap John" method of doing things. We unconsciously become like those with whom we are regularly associated. It becomes part of us, and the habit of doing things in an inferior, slovenly way weaves its fatal defects into the very texture of the character, and becomes part of a lower life standard.

Most young people think too much of quantity, and too little of quality in their work. They try to do too much, and do not always take the time and care necessary to doing it well.

They do not realize that the education, the comfort, the satisfaction, the general improvement and bracing up of the whole man that comes from doing one thing absolutely right. If only they understood the importance of putting the trademark of one's character into the final product; realizing how that one act far outweighs the lesser value of doing a thousand botched or lazy jobs.

We are so easily influenced that the quality which we put into our life-work affects everything else in our lives, and tends to bring our whole conduct to the same level. The entire person takes on the characteristics of one's usual way of doing things. The habit of  precision and accuracy strengthens the mentality and improves the whole character.

On the contrary, doing things in a loose-jointed, slipshod, careless manner deteriorates the whole mentality, demoralizes the mental processes, and pulls down the quality of the entire life-experience.

Every half-done or slovenly job that goes out of your hands leaves its trace of demoralization behind, takes a bit away from your self-respect. After slighting your work, after doing a poor job, you are not quite the same man or woman you were before.

You are not so likely to try to keep up the quality of your work, not so likely to regard your word as sacred as before. You incapacitate yourself for doing your best in proportion

to the number of times you allow yourself to do inferior work. The more you accept mediocrity in your work, the easier it is for you to accept all the lesser things in your life.

The mental and moral effect of half doing, or carelessly doing things; its power to drag you down, to demoralize you, can hardly be estimated because the processes are so gradual, so subtle. No one can respect himself who habitually cheats his work, and when self-respect drops, confidence goes with it; and when confidence and self-respect have gone, excellence is impossible.

It is astonishing how completely a lazy habit will gradually, insidiously fasten itself upon

the individual and so change his whole mental attitude. As a result, his prospect for achieving his life-purpose is greatly diminished, even though he is unaware and may think he is doing his level best.

I know a man who was extremely ambitious to do something very distinctive and who had the ability to do it. When he started on his career he was very exact and painstaking in his efforts. He always demanded the best of himself—he would not accept his second-best in anything. The thought of slighting his work was painful to him, but his mental processes have so deteriorated, and he has become so demoralized by the habit of always accepting less, he does it now without a protest, seemingly without even being conscious of it. He is today doing quite ordinary things, without apparent care or any sense of humiliation, and the tragedy of it all is, he does not know how his heart and mind were so quickly imprisoned! 

One's ambition and ideals need constant watching and cultivation in order to keep the standards up. Many people get so set in their ways that their ambition wanes and their ideals drop when they are alone, or when they surround themselves with careless, indifferent people. They require the constant assistance, suggestion, prodding, or example of others to keep them up to a higher standard.

I recall a once prominent man who, until the death of his wife, had very high ideals and a lofty aim; a man who was extremely painstaking and careful in everything, who would never accept anything from himself but the best he was capable of. However, once he was living alone, he gradually dropped his lofty standards, neglected his appearance, and grew so slovenly in his personal habits, that he became repulsive to the eye, and yet he was, apparently unconscious of the change in him that those around him witnessed.

How quickly a youth of high ideals, who has been well trained in thoroughness, often deteriorates when he leaves home and goes to work for an employer with inferior ideals and dishonest methods!

The introduction of inferiority into our work is like introducing subtle poison into the system. It paralyzes the normal functions. Inferiority is an infection which affects the entire system. It dulls ideals, palsies the aspirations, stupefies the ambition, and causes deterioration all along the line of the one afflicted.

The human mechanism is so masterfully aligned that whatever goes wrong in one part affects the whole structure. There is a very intimate relation between the quality of our work and the quality of our character.

Did you ever notice the rapid decline in a young man's character when he began to slight his own work, to shirk responsibility, to slip into lazy hours, and display rotten service?

If you should ask the inmates of our penitentiaries what had caused their lives to ruin, many of them could trace the first signs of deterioration back to when they began shirking responsibility, cheating on their hours, deceiving their employers—to being indifferent and adopting dishonest work habits.

We were made to be honest. Honesty is our normal expression, and any departure from it demoralizes and taints the whole character. Honesty means integrity in everything. It not only means reliability in your word, but also carefulness, accuracy and honesty in your work. Honesty with integrity means that not only you will not lie with your lips, you will also never lie and defraud others with the quality of your work. Honesty means wholeness, completeness; it means truth in everything—in our deeds and in our word. 

You must also not steal another person's time, you must not steal goods or ruin his property by half-finishing or botching your work, by working carelessly or with indifference. Your contract with your employer means that you will give him your best, not just your second-best will do.

Aside from the question of honesty and its effect on your body and mind, you can't afford to give the worst of yourself to the man who hires you to do your best, for your lack of honest effort will always come back to cause you pain and discomfort.

"What a fool you are," said one workman to another, "to be so diligent and to make so much effort with that job, when you don't get much pay for it. 'Get the most money for the least work,' is my rule, and I get twice as much money as you do." "That may be," replied the other, "but I shall like myself better, I shall think more of myself, and that is more important to me than money.

You will like yourself better when you have the approval of your conscience. That will be worth more to you than any amount of money you can pocket through fraudulent, skimped, or botched work. Nothing else can give you the glow of satisfaction, the electric thrill and uplift which comes from having completed a superbly-done job. Perfect work harmonizes with the very principles of our being, because we were made for perfection. It fits our very nature.

Order complete book in Adobe PDF eBook or printed form for $5.95 (+ printing charge)

or click here to order from Amazon.com for $16.95